We had the chance to interview the wonderful Hannah, founder of Ava May Aromas.
From the launch about 2 years ago to today, her company has grown tremendously. She went from working on the kitchen table at her parent’s house to having more than 20 staff members. Ava May Aromas have now sold close to half a billion wax melts.
We’re amazed at how she managed to grow her business so fast and we find her success to be inspiring. Read on to learn about her story.
- What were you doing before you launched Ava May Aromas?
- How did those experiences shape the person you are and how did it help you starting and running your company?
- What was your biggest challenge?
- What prompted you to start your business?
- From the info I got on your website, it looks like you were still living with your parents when you launched, has this affected the choices you made when launching your business?
- Your father is co-director of Ava May Aromas, what is it like to work with your dad ?
- Ava May Aromas now has more than 20 staff members, would you please walk us through the growth of your enterprise?
- What’s next for Ava May Aromas ?
- If you had to give some advice to younger Hannah who is just starting in her business, what would those advice be ?
- If you had to give some advice to our readers who find your story inspiring, what would those be?
What were you doing before you launched Ava May Aromas?
I started Ava May Aromas when I was 23 two years ago from my parent’s kitchen table! I wasn’t enjoying my job in a social media agency and I wanted to be self-employed. I loved candles and I’d seen a few accounts pop up on Instagram making their own and I thought – I could do that.
How did those experiences shape the person you are and how did it help you starting and running your company?
Thanks to my experience with social media, I started out on Instagram, a platform I knew had huge potential having seen many brands grow from humble beginnings to hugely powerful companies. Gymshark and Pretty Little Thing are two of my favourite examples. That’s the beauty of social media – there are ways of leveraging it that don’t necessarily require money and I think that’s what makes it so exciting for budding companies and young entrepreneurs, it really levels the playing field.
What was your biggest challenge?
Believe it or not, the biggest challenge for me was being able to keep up with demand. I was lucky enough to connect with an account on Instagram within my first few months of business that has gone on to become a social media powerhouse. The amazing Sophie Hinchliffe – aka Mrs Hinch – has become a friend of mine, and she also changed the course of my life.
When I first started out on Instagram I knew influencer gifting was a powerful way for fledgling accounts to grow rapidly. I messaged Sophie when she had around 4,000 followers, and asked if she’d like to review our products. She agreed and has continued to show her support to our brand by mentioning us on her page.
Shortly after initially making contact, Sophie’s page blew up and her following grew to 100,000, then 500,000 and before long she was passed 1,000,000 followers. As a result, if she mentioned us to her growing audience our page would go absolutely crazy. The website would sell out and we’d have to shut down for a couple of weeks to clear the backlog of orders.
It was amazing but equally stressful. My parents’ house essentially became a factory with boxes in every room, and within six weeks I had to move to my first commercial unit. Even with the unit and more space, meeting demand on my own was a real struggle. From making to packing, dealing with emails and social inboxes, I was drowning in the workload. Prior to taking on staff, I do look back at those early months and realise how burnt out I was. It was a really testing period of relentless dedication, but I think every entrepreneur has to go through that in some way.
What prompted you to start your business?
I’d left my full-time job working at the social media agency because I just wasn’t enjoying it. I was strongly encouraged to try becoming self-employed by my dad – who is now my business partner – although he wasn’t too keen when I told him I wanted to make and sell candles. I had saved enough money to see me through the first two months but my dad was worried that I would never be able to make a successful business to sustain me from selling candles.
From the info I got on your website, it looks like you were still living with your parents when you launched, has this affected the choices you made when launching your business?
Living with my parents definitely gave me the safety net to take the plunge as if it didn’t work I would still have a roof over my head! I can understand that it’s much harder for people when they have rent/or a mortgage to consider.
Your father is co-director of Ava May Aromas, what is it like to work with your dad ?
My dad thought it was a mistake at first, and didn’t really think I’d be able to make a business out of candles and wax melts.
He soon changed his mind when he could see it taking off – so much so that he left his job to become a shareholder and director in the business alongside me.
We already had a good relationship anyway, but we run different sides of the business too which I think helps. I take care of Sales & Marketing whilst my Dad runs Operations and Finance.
We both consult with each other and make decisions together but neither of us get too heavily involved in the other’s side of the business and I think that’s why it works so well. All good relationships are built on trust and there’s nobody I trust more.
Ava May Aromas now has more than 20 staff members, would you please walk us through the growth of your enterprise?
When did you hire your first employee?
First staff came on board in August 2018 – Maia was the original and she is still with us today as my Executive Assistant – she is quite literally a foundation of the business, she’s seen it all grow/develop & everyone asks her if they have a question…including me – she always knows the answer!
Then the next few others and so on?
Initially it was staff to help with pouring and packing. Literally getting goods out and keeping the website stocked was the priority! Then Gemma our Customer Service Manager joined to take that job off my shoulders.
Then as our team grew to double figures we recognised they needed a team leader and so our General Manager Tracey joined the team! Now each unit has a manager, (wax/packing/finishing) and Tracey oversees all of them.
Could you give us some info of what was happening at various points in time, like after 1 year, 2 years, etc.
After one year we had a dedicated wax unit / packing unit and finishing unit. Space has and continues to be a problem – but we’ve been lucky so far. Each time we’ve needed more space another unit has become available and we’ve been able to knock several of them together to create larger spaces.
Now two years on we’ve introduced machinery into the wax unit where previously everything was done by hand. We are just about to introduce a stock management system into the packing & warehouse units too so I guess you could say now we are adding more technical elements.
What mistakes did you make along the way?
Not investing in a better website early on – being e-commerce based I underestimated the importance of having a clear fast website (which sounds crazy writing this now) but I was reluctant to spend where I could avoid it especially early on.
However that ended up costing us more in the long run when the website would fall over/stop working. Lesson learnt – websites are worth investing in (and make sure the person or agency running it is up to scratch too).
We had a few people let us down after claiming they had the knowledge/experience to help but then proved not too… the agency we work with now are fantastic though.
What’s next for Ava May Aromas ?
Hitting £10 mill turnover in the next 5 years! I’d like to think we will have our own premises/warehouse at that point too and potentially be thinking about our first retail store – that’s the dream…
If you had to give some advice to younger Hannah who is just starting in her business, what would those advice be ?
Don’t think you need to do it all alone! The sooner I asked for help and brought other people with the skillsets I lacked into my business the better. You’re less likely to get into a mess, as I’m sure I would have if I’d been left to my own devices not collecting invoices or doing any form of accounting.
If you had to give some advice to our readers who find your story inspiring, what would those be?
If I had to give advice to anyone starting out it would be to find your passion!
A great thing about being born in the millennial generation is that the number of opportunities open to us is greater than ever before. Jobs and roles that didn’t exist 10, 20, 30 years ago such as content managers or videographers are now available to us. But it can be a bit overwhelming to know what you actually want to do as a result.
Take your time and find your passion, don’t rush or worry about what everyone else is doing, this can often cloud your judgement when making decisions. Once you do, find what you love, think about how you can capitalise on that as a business opportunity. Suddenly it’s not work but a passion project.
We’d like to thank Hannah for her time. If you want to learn more about her, Ava May Aromas, or their products, here’s where you can find more info:
Ava May Aromas website
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